Is A Microphone An Input Or Output Device?

As a sound enthusiast (whether you are recording at home or in a professional studio), understanding how a microphone works is an essential part of it all. It ensures that you select the best microphone for your needs and budget. You also have an easy time setting up your equipment to assist in capturing sound appropriately. But is a microphone an input or output device?

The answer to this question seems to bring up a lot of confusion among sound enthusiasts. We did our research to find out what type of a device the microphone is. By the end of this article, you should have a clear answer to this question.

Without further ado, let’s get into it.

What kind of device is a microphone?

A microphone is an audio input device. Primarily, a microphone is/was designed to pick sound from an external source and transform it into an electrical signal, or a digital signal, which the computer can read easily. The signal then moves into the speaker, where it’s converted back into an analog signal, which the user can understand.

What is audio input vs. output?

When recording, or when you want to give commands to a computer using sound, you will require an audio input device. These devices will capture sound – which in this case is an analog signal, convert it into an electrical signal, then into digital signals/codes that the computer can read or store. Microphones and MIDI instruments such as digital keyboards and electric drums are good examples of audio input devices.

Audio output devices, on the other side, are units attached to a computer that interpret electrical data signals into an understandable form to the user. Examples of such devices include speakers and headphones.

Once the computer receives the digital codes, it uses a sound card to read the electric sound signals. These signals then move to an audio output device, converting them into an analog signal.

What are some differences between an input and output device?

If you are still confused about input and output devices, here is a table to help you identify their differences.

Input DeviceOutput device
They convert analog signals into digital signalsThey convert digital signals back into human-comprehendible  form



Can only receive data from an external source, and not from any other deviceThey receive data from other devices, and not from an external source
Provides instructions or dataDisplays the results of the data
Controlled by the userControlled by the computer
Examples of input devices include microphones, keyboards, mice, joysticks, image scanners, graphics tablets, among others.Examples of output devices include monitors, speakers, headphones, printers, plotters, projectors, and so forth.

What parts make up a microphone and how do they work to capture sound?

Dynamic and condenser microphones operate differently.

For a dynamic microphone to capture sound effectively, it needs to have these essential components: A diaphragm, coil, capsule, magnetic core, and output.

The diaphragm is a thin membrane whose main function is to vibrate once sound waves hit it. Underneath the diaphragm is a coil, which is attached to it. It will also vibrate and move back and forth around a magnet.

The vibrations around this magnetic field turn the vibrations into electrical energy within a capsule. The electric signal then moves to the output, connecting to an audio interface, a computer, or an amplifier.

On the other hand, Condensers do not use a magnetic coil but solely depend on capacitor plates to pick up sound from the vibrating diaphragm. The vibrations create a voltage that requires phantom power to supply into an audio interface or mixer.

Interesting reads:

Is a microphone a transducer?

Any device that converts energy into another form is a transducer. In this case, you can refer to a microphone as a transducer since they transform mechanical energy into electrical energy.

Can a microphone be used as an output device or a speaker?

Surprisingly, microphones have similar components to speakers. For instance, both have diaphragms. Therefore, it’s possible if you want to use your microphone as a speaker. All you need to do is plug the microphone into an audio output jack. However, note that doing so can damage the diaphragm.

In addition, you can use your speaker as a microphone if you plug it into an audio input jack.

What devices can serve as both input and output devices?

Modern devices that function as both input and output devices include touchscreens, headsets with microphones, modems, network cards, flash drives, printers, DVD-RW, audio cards, and fax machines.


We appreciate you taking the time to read the entire article. We hope that you have a clear answer on this particular issue by now. And remember, as much as a microphone can serve as an output device, it functions much better as an input device. That’s why it stands out as an input device.